Would have liked to put the main title, but it's NSFW.
Koukyuu Shoufu （高級娼婦）, is the first of two games (the second being Hotel Ergiffen) released in 2002 by the unknown and defunct company Maple. It boasts an unusual painted art style by Haimura Kiyotaka (灰村 キヨタカ). These being his early works, he is much better known for his art in Yume Miru Kusuri （ユメミルクスリ） and the anime Toaru Majutsu no Index.
This game is obscure. Like 1 vote on VNDB obsure. I could only find one (japanese) review of the game outside of eroge gamescape. As an old game without any well known company to be associated with, or classic status, it's been totally forgotten over the years. As an author's and writer's pet project, doubtless it was never well known to begin with. And yet, I find the game, and the two others similiar to it, quite enjoyable for the work the artist and writer put into them.
Our protagonist Ouran, is a prodigal musician in Renaissance Europe. He used to play for the royal courts: people would pay a great deal to hear him play. That was, until a foul plot left him unwelcome in the palace. And so to the streets he went, left with but the clothes on his back. A mysterious lady comes, the widow of a baron. She's seen him before, apparently, and offers to give him room and board, in exchange for teaching music to some of her subjects. He's more than happy to grab this chance. A few hours a day lets him squander the remaining drinking his devils away.
Then, one day the landlord shows him two girls, Elsa and Emilia. Their dance and song leave an impression on him.
As he belatedly learns, the Lady dealt in the pleasure sector. Why she was running such a shady business out of her own volition, he did not know.
At the start of novel he's presented with a choice. Having seen the potential in the two girls, the Lady wants Ouran to be instruct the two girls on prostitution and how to carry themselves among the opposite sex. She had them becoming, not a common whore but a courtesan in her sights. He was not particularly fond of the arrangement, but the Lady was correct in her assessment: as such a man of pursued skills, he could not so easily abandon potential talent. He would show them that much pity.
The two were more oblivious than most, he later glumly admitted. Perhaps that was to be expected. To say "whore" is but a single word, and yet the path towards being one is littered with feelings of confusion and torment, of emptiness and shame. But there was still something in each of the girls which drew him. Perhaps there was something else to be found within these two months, however insignificant and transient.
Through conversation, Ouran learn more about the two girls and the landlady(the baron's widow), and various going-on's of the world. The two girls Elsa and Emilia, meanwhile, follow the only path they have.
Emilia (the girl in the opening picture) is perhaps the more expected of the two heroines. I don't really have a good grasp of her character, but I keenly felt her thoughts throughout the story. I really felt bad for her...Every step of the way, she was suffering.
I found the setting pretty seamless in that characters' pasts fit within the setting, and minor characters had their own personalities. You didn't know exactly their nature the moment you saw them, you had to judge them as you met them.
Here's Annet, one of the minor characters. She's ill-tempered, way older than she looks, and a bit of an enigma.
And Analiza, the owner of the brothel.
Even though there wasn't much on-screen plot, as a backdrop, the topic of the royal court （王宮） was brought up occasionally, along with that of rumors, marriages, families, and ranks. Overall for me there were many unfamiliar concepts.
The production values are low overall, though the art, music, and text are arguably quite decent. It's also a pretty short game.
It's worth noting that the game is raising sim (albeit a crude and cryptic one: I couldn't clear the damn thing!). Besides that, all the scenes happen between brief game menu's, seperate from each other. This is a common feature with this game and Hotel Erigriffen. It'd say it's pretty appropriate. It makes you step back after every scene and go "hmm" at what just happened, and before you click it, wonder what's going to happen in the next scene.
Ero and Plot
There's one sequence of scenes for each of the two girls when the MC instructs them on the ways of courtesans. The scenes were completely different from the typical cliche anime presentation. I didn't find myself ever criticizing the unbelievability of the ero in the back of my mind. It was less the scenes were realistic, and more like a real life counterpart didn't really come to mind. The threshold between the ero and the plot was basically almost zero: they were pretty much entwined. The erotic presentation in those scenes was probably designed in some fashion, but they were also a major part where the MC would interact with the girls.
My greatest praise for the two games is how the text, the art, and music, all work together to create the atmosphere.
The music, likely to draw puzzled stares listened in a vaccumn, is shatteringly effective in conjugation with the art and text.
To speak of the prose, there's not much objective I can say about it. If you like it you'll love it, if not you won't. While not repetitive, it's long-winded and can be hard to read.
While the art in both games has the same painting art style, if you compare Koukyuu Shofu's art to Hotel Ergriffen's, you'll find the differences which resulted from the two atmospheres the games strives to bring out.
The former brings out the European historic era with shades of red, maroon, brown, tan, orange, gray: all colours of the wood, garments, and furnishings of the presented world.
Hotel Ergriffen's slightly disshapen heads bring out a mild sense of horror to the dreamlike atmosphere. The background is a blur of warm colorful specks with colors a mix between faint neons signs and city lights, and colour of reflected oil. The surroundings are often barely in focus. The colour scheme is "pink, green, white, and beige".
Koukyuu Shoufu didn't leave me satisfied. But it was something different and something I don't regret seeing. It's like the author and Haimura banded up to bring the author's vision and Haimura's art to life. It's kind of brief and unsatisfying, but they get full points for embodying a style. The vn's never felt like the staff was being lazy with the writing, art, or characters. And that's why I didn't mind bearing with the janky interface and lack of satisfaction.
Koukyuu Shoufu is one of the three games by this pair. The other two are Hotel Ergriffen and Minato Gensou (which actually takes place in the same location and shares some characters with Koukyuu Shoufu), which I'm reading now. Koukyuu Shoufu is probably the weakest out of the three games, because it's so limited, while not aiming for the crazy dream-like sensorial experience of Hotel Ergrifen. But, if the aforementioned portrayal of 'something' and the art interests you, you'll probably find any of these three novels somewhat enjoyable.